14 Creative Ways to Pay off Credit Card Debt Without Being a Complete Hermit
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When the phrase “It’s fun to” comes up in conversation, it’s probably not followed by “pay off credit card debt.”
Paying off debt is associated with living under a rock, eating ramen noodles and cutting the bottom off your toothpaste tube to get the last bit — none of which are very “fun.”
But here’s the thing: Paying off debt doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t even mean reverting to listening to concerts from outside the venue and eating your friend’s leftovers from your favorite restaurant.
Here’s How to Pay off Credit Card Debt and Still Have a Life
Achieving freedom from debt just means getting creative with the resources available to you. And we love getting creative. Here are some clever ways to pay off your credit card debt without giving up fun.
1. Figure out Exactly What You Owe
To pay off all your debt, you have to know how much you owe.
Seriously though, when’s the last time you looked at all your debts and their interest rates to devise a payoff plan?
That’s what I thought.
A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.
It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.
And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!
For example, it might recommend a mortgage lender, credit card or debt refinancing, based on your needs and chances of being approved.
Small business owner Kenneth Bain raised his credit score 234 points using Credit Sesame. He said it became like a game, and he wanted to achieve the high score.
“I literally checked my credit every day, two to three times a day,” he told us. “I remember the day I logged on and saw 721 … And [I thought], ‘Yes, finally! My hard work paid off.’”
2. Slash Your Interest Rates
More and more credit cards are coming with interest rates north of 20%. If you’re stuck with one — or more — in that range, consolidation or refinancing might be worth a look.
That’s one of the ways Deacon Hayes and his wife Kim payed off their high-interest credit card debt.
“We had a few credit cards we were paying over 13% interest on, so we refinanced them to get a lower interest rate,” he says. “Within 18 months, we were completely free of consumer debt.”
A good resource for this is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Even’s platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
Refinancing high-interest credit card debt can lower your payments and save you a lot of money, so you won’t have to feel bad about partaking in happy hour.
3. Make Extra Money While You Watch TV
For those times you choose the frugal route and stay in for the night, why not cash in on your free time? Survey sites aren’t the fastest way to earn money, but they’re a great way to build a little savings while you veg out.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money, including online surveys. Plus, you get $5 just for signing up and taking your first survey.
- InboxDollars lets you actually get paid to watch videos online. The site hosts a ton of stuff to watch, including cooking, entertainment, news and health shows. The shows are sponsored by brands that need to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Every time you watch one, InboxDollars will credit your account with a little bit of cash.
4. Save Your Digital Change
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself consider starting an investment account through Acorns.
Acorns is an app that automatically rounds up your credit or debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change.
That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account. Once you hit $5, Acorns will automatically invest it.
The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year with the app!
Acorns will give Penny Hoarders a $5 bonus for signing up and average interest earning is around 7%.
5. Let a Robot Lower Your Monthly Bills
We negotiate prices on cars and weird lamps at yard sales, but did you know you can negotiate your utility bills?
You don’t have to have mad negotiating skills, either. Trim is a financial assistant that lives in Facebook Messenger or your text messages and automatically takes care of negotiating for you.
Once you’re connected, you’ll be able to access a dashboard within your Messenger or text conversation with Trim. For example, you’ll see options to:
- Negotiate your cable and internet bill down to a lower price.
- View your spending habits.
- Sift through your subscription services to cancel the ones you forgot about or don’t need (about that gym membership…).
Once you knock your bill payments down, put the money you saved toward paying off debts.
6. Get a New Credit Card
It sounds counterintuitive, but a new credit card could be the key to paying off your debt faster. Intrigued?
If your credit is good, apply for a zero- or low-interest credit card. To entice you, these cards will offer you a super-low annual percentage rate (APR) — for a certain period of time.
Transfer the balance from your high-interest cards to your new card.
If you want some professional help choosing the best card, Even Financial can help with that, too. It offers an online marketplace to find the right card for you, based on your situation and needs.
You’ll enter your email, address, phone number and financial information, and Even will play matchmaker, connecting you with card issuers to see if you pre-qualify for the cards that are the best fit for you. (Pre-qualifying doesn’t commit you to a card or ding your credit score.)
Lickety-split, Even Financial’s matching algorithms help identify the right card for you.
7. Make Saving Easy and Fun — Seriously
Once you pay off a credit card, the last thing you want to do is max it out again. An emergency savings fund can help protect you from that possibility.
“Emergency fund” is one of those boring personal finance terms you probably take for granted.
There’s a new app on the market, though, that combines playing slots and saving money. Right — it seems 100% counterintuitive, but it’s really cool.
We’re talking about Long Game Savings.
You’ll create an account, verify your identity and connect your bank account. Set how much you’d like to automatically save each pay day, as little as $5. Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing for rewards to boost your savings account while you wait for payday.
You’ve got tons of options — from slot machines to scratch-offs to spin-to-win wheels.
8. Start Investing Like a Pro — and Get a $5 Bonus
It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.
Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.
But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. Plus, Penny Hoarders will get a $5 bonus to get started.
Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money.
But it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.
9. Get Refunds for Your Impulse Purchases
We’re not saying you have to put a freeze on spending altogether. (Unless that’s your thing.) Instead, we’ve got a smart way to reclaim some of that money you might regret spending.
Our secret weapon here is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts.
If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.
10. Get a Financial Snapshot
We’ve been taught to focus on ourselves, and that’s great. But sometimes it helps to zoom out and see what’s happening around you, especially when it comes to personal finance.
Two data scientists are hoping to make that easier through a service called Status.
When you sign up for Status, you’ll be able to compare your financial choices with your peers (though anonymously). You can compare everything — from your spending and income to your debts and investments. Even check out how your net worth and credit score compare.
OK, but you’re asking: How is this going to help me? Won’t it just make me feel bad about myself and my wallet?
The purpose of Status is to help consumers make smarter decisions — to add a layer of transparency. By doing that, you’ll be able to see if you’re paying an insane interest rate on a loan, if you’re earning way below average (time to negotiate with your boss!), or if you’re spending a little too much.
To get started, create an account and link your credit file and bank account. In about three minutes, you’ll be able to start crunching numbers to see where you’re killin’ it — or where you need to take some time to improve.
11. Sell Your Extra Stuff
To pay off their debt and live aboard a sailboat, Ryan Deitrich and Kelsey Swagler sold clothes, shoes, furniture and other items they didn’t use. They estimate they made at least $5,000.
“We re-listed a paper-towel holder four times on OfferUp just to get $1,” Ryan said.
You probably have things sitting around you don’t need. If you don’t, read a few books about minimalism and get back to us.
Selling your old stuff could give you an influx of cash to make bigger payments on your debt.
Here are some of our favorite websites to sell anything in your house:
- Letgo: You can sell almost anything on this app.
- Decluttr: This site will pay you for your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, gaming consoles and other electronics. (Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-in!)
12. Earn Cash Back on Your Everyday Expenses
Now that you know you don’t have to cut yourself off from society to pay off your credit card debt, let’s talk about making the most of what you are spending.
Earning cash back on purchases you’d make anyway is a super easy — and gratifying — way to make extra money.
One of our favorite ways to do this is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on purchases at Walmart.
Plus you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.
13. Get Paid for Getting the Next Round on Your Night out
We want you to have fun — but if you’re not careful, it’s easy to blow your entire beer budget in one weekend — after which you’ll be stuck drinking $3 wine at home by yourself while your coworkers hit up happy hour.
Luckily, there’s a way to earn cash back on alcohol.
Ibotta is an easy-to-use cash-back app that’s partnered with more than 50 retailers offering deals on many of your favorite brands.
The app features both liquor store deals and cash back on drinks from any restaurant or bar.
We’ve seen deals like $5 back on 750-milliliter or 1-liter bottles of Absolut vodka, $3 back on any pitcher or bucket of Budweiser or Bud Light and $3 back on any mixed drink or cocktail featuring 1800 Tequila.
14. Find Free Entertainment
Let’s face it: Having fun can cost a lot of money. You could easily drop thousands on tickets, cover charges and entry fees each year if you don’t pay attention.
An integral part of paying off debt without living in frugal purgatory is finding good free fun.
Even better, why not get paid to enjoy movies, bowling, amusement parks, water parks, weekend getaways and more?
Our writer Jen Smith and her husband, Travis, are avid mystery shoppers.
“I’ve gotten paid to eat at restaurants, test drive cars, even get my annual eye exam,” says Jen Smith. “I have to write a report after, but it’s well worth it because we’re having experiences we definitely wouldn’t get if we weren’t being paid or reimbursed.”
If you want to try mystery shopping, here’s a list of our favorite companies to get you started.